Nursing free essay: Mental Illness Defense
Mental Illness Defense
Defenses to crime generally admit insanity as sufficient ground to relieve the defendant of criminal responsibility in many cases where it is applied by the defense. The court systems have generated insanity tests to determine if there is criminal responsibility on the part of the defendant. Three of these tests have been in use for a considerable period of time and they include M’Naghten, irresistible impulse and substantial capacity tests. M’Naghten test depends on the defendant’s cognitive abilities and the possibility that such abilities could or could not enable making the right decision in terms of the crime. Irresistible impulse test relies on willingness to commit crime irrespective of cognition and any chance that a severe disease caused certain mental incapacitation on the defendant’s decision making. Substantive capacity test relies on the threshold of mental incapacitation which needs not be total incapacitation at the time of commission of a crime (O’Connor, 2010). These crime liability tests based on the state of mind of the defendant are arguably not conclusive for failure to detect the possibility of motivation to commit crimes from a beneficial perspective. Research on the shift of burden of crime responsibility shows that benefiting from a crime should change the analysis of tests such as those highlighted above. Mental illness research in advanced inanity defense makes recommendations explaining that the presence of a mental condition on the defendant should not impede criminal responsibility.
Based on the assumption that mental illness opens a window of opportunity for the defense team to take advantage of the apparent defense thereon, fairness dictates that such defendants should be handled with a special consideration to that effect. Fairness, however, does not imply that the victims of the crime become automatic losers in that case. To make a judgment based on the fairness threshold must therefore determine whether the mentally ill defendant benefited from the crime. In such a benefit analysis, findings should add weight to the results of the other tests in order to facilitate fairness to the crime victims who stand to lose if mental illness is merely used as sufficient defense without benefit considerations.
In cases where it can be demonstrated that the defendant benefited from the commission of a crime, the application of mental illness as sufficient defense will amount to the contradiction of intentions of justice in various respects. Despite the fact that mental illness defies deterrence and retribution application of law, the infusion of certain benefits on the part of the defendant from the crime may dilute this concept in law that considers justice and equity. In terms of the compromise in such a case involving deterrence, justice will not be served since a chance of occurrence of similar crimes is a significant likelihood as motivated by benefit. Retribution on the part of the victim will not be achieved based on the fairness criteria that consider both the offender and the offended (Brodsky and Bursztajn, 1991).
It is sometimes difficult to demonstrate the standards of proof in defense of a mental case which complicates the reliability of the defense. In many cases, it may not be directly possible and practical to accurately demonstrate the requirements of basic proof in mental illness as defense. It is almost certainly a requirement that medical intervention is sought for the translation of the mental status of a defendant to demonstrate the technical medical nexus that the defense has in seeking remedy. However, it is not necessarily complex to enumerate the benefit that the defendant could be obtaining at the expense of the victim. While these complexities exist in the demonstration prepared by the defense, there is little effort needed to illustrate the possibility of benefit as a motivation of mentally ill defendant partaking in a crime. The most affected element of legal application in the determination of the motivation may however not be as elaborate as it sounds since the principle of free will may obscure such a consideration (Trowbridge, 2005).
Such a consideration is highlighted in the cost-benefit analysis that employs the premise that the defense on mens rea principle must be conducted on the basis of avoidance marginal cost against commission marginal cost. The determination of the criminal responsibility based on this cost balance analysis should be insightful enough to detect any shift in benefit on the part of the defendant for use in exoneration or implication (Candeub, 2009). The benefit analysis will therefore be used to determine the possibility that the mentally ill defendant could have contributed to the issue of criminal liability that affects the victims, from the point of view that the illness is not defense on its own.
Brodsky, A. & Bursztajn, H. (1991) “Competence and Insanity,” The Mental Health Professional and the Legal System, 131:181-186
Candeub, A. (2009) “An Economic Theory of Criminal Excuse,” Boston College Law Review, 50(1):87-137
O’Connor, T. (2010) “Defenses to Crime” Retrieved from: http://www.drtomoconnor.com/3010/3010lect04.htm
Trowbridge, B. (2005) “Waiting List and Recent Cases Give Advantages to Defendants Court-Ordered for State Hospital Evaluations,” Washington Criminal Defense, 19(2)
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